Category Archives: Power of God

Faithfully Following Our King

Lead On, O King Eternal[1]

Dislike for authority is in the nature of every person. Ever since humanity’s fall in the Garden of Eden, people have not wanted to be told what to do. A 1965 television commercial for a headache remedy called Anacin featured a younger woman (with a headache) saying irritably, “Mother, I’d rather do it myself.”  Sounds like the words – or at least the thoughts – we direct toward God. No advice needed. I know better than you what is best for me. The conclusion about ancient Israel that resounds through the Old Testament book of Judges is telling both as to the root problem and the crying need of people and societies then and now. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25 ESV).

Thankfully, God has not rejected mankind even though mankind rejects him. “Does their [our] faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means!” (Romans 3:3-4 ESV). “. . . If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV). Instead of rejecting us, he chooses to help us love and reverence and obey him. “I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7 ESV). What God promised through Jeremiah is the lived-out experience of every person who has turned from their rebellious ways and yielded control of their lives to THE King of kings.

Lead on, O King eternal, the day of march has come;
Henceforth in fields of conquest thy tents shall be our home;
Through days of preparation thy grace has made us strong,
And now, O King eternal, we lift our battle song.

The hymn Lead On, O King Eternal speaks to the omnipotence and eternality of God. It also pictures the Christian life as the spiritual battle that it indeed is. In living faithfully for God in this fallen world, our home becomes where God and his people are. Our ability and strength to live for him and serve him comes from his grace given freely to us. But the hymn also pictures the Christian’s “warfare” – and the way in which the Kingdom of God comes, grows, and expands – with language that does not sound like warfare.

Lead on, O King eternal, till sin’s fierce war shall cease,
And holiness shall whisper the sweet amen of peace;
For not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums,
By deeds of love and mercy, the heavenly kingdom comes.

By deeds of love and mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.”  One who vibrantly lived out the truth of those words was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She lifted people out of garbage dumps and sewer drains, affirming the inherent dignity of every human being because they were image bearers of God. By her humble service, she called the world’s attention to the poor and abandoned. She made significant personal sacrifices to follow her calling to the “poorest of the poor.” One of those sacrifices was her family. When she left her home in Albania to become a nun, she never saw her sister or mother again. According to David Aikman in his profile of Mother Teresa, her brother Lazar had been stunned by her decision to become a nun and wondered whether she was throwing her life away. He wrote to her, suggesting that his life as a military officer in the court of a European king was more exciting and rewarding than her life as a nun. Her reply? “To you it seems something very important to be an officer in the service of a king with two million subjects. Well, I’m an officer too, but I serve the King of the whole world. Which of us is in the better position?”[2]

Lead on, O King eternal, we follow not with fears;
For gladness breaks like morning where’re thy face appears;
Thy cross is lifted o’er us; we journey in its light;
The crown awaits the conquest; lead on, O God of might.

Mother Teresa had no struggle with God’s authority in her life. When asked “Who is Jesus to you?” she replied, “Jesus is my God; Jesus is my spouse; Jesus is my Life; Jesus is my only Love; Jesus is my All in All; Jesus is my Everything.”[3]  Who is Jesus to you? To me? Who is the “king” that we serve each day? What “kingdom” does our life and labor help to advance? The “kingdom” of this world, or the “. . . Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ?” (Revelation 11:15 ESV). May today – and everyday – find us following as loyal subjects of the King of kings, serving loving and tirelessly as ambassadors of the Kingdom and the King who “. . . shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15 ESV).

[1] TEXT: Ernest W. Shurtleff (1888). TUNE: LANCASHIRE, Henry Smart (1836).

[2] Lush Gjergji, Mother Teresa: Her Life, Her Works (New Rochelle, NY: New City Press, 1991). Quoted in David Aikman, GREAT SOULS: Six Who Changed the Century (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2003), p. 209.

[3] Aikman, GREAT SOULS, p. 248.

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Filed under Christian Living, Daily Living, God the King, Hymn devotional, People of God, Power of God

His Kingdom Comes

A Mighty Fortress is Our God[1]

“The kingdom of God is the supreme and sovereign rule and reign of God over all.”[2] (Burk Parsons)

In giving us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray that God the Father’s kingdom would come, and his will would be done, “on earth as it is in heaven.”  There are times when our circumstances and emotions lead us to think and feel that God is truly in control of everything around us. Then there are other times – times when chaos is all around us – when we wonder where God is now.

Martin Luther was a priest and teacher in the Catholic church who lived in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. He struggled intensely in his relationship with God. His mind and emotions were often painfully stirred with doubts and fears about whether he was truly God’s child – whether his life was pleasing to God – whether he was genuinely loved and accepted by God. His fears were assuaged when he came to understand the truth of justification by faith – that our relationship with God is based on trusting the death of Christ for us on the cross, and not trying to please God by our actions. While studying Paul’s letter to the Romans, he was drawn to Romans 1:17: “The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (NKJV). The apostle Paul expanded on this truth in Romans 5:1: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV). He added further in Galatians 2:16 that “. . . we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (NKJV).

Because God is the supreme and sovereign ruler over all, and because Jesus died on the cross to bring us into a relationship with God, we can live with confidence, no matter the chaotic condition of the world or the fierce struggles we face in our own hearts and minds. It may not appear that God’s kingdom is coming “on earth as it is in heaven,” but God is at work no matter what is going on around us – as Martin Luther learned and expressed in his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

God is a defense that never fails. No matter the obstacles we face, our God who is with us prevails. Still, we dare not let our guard down because our “ancient foe” never lets up seeking to “work us woe.” Satan’s power and evil intent cannot be matched by human effort, so we dare not ever trust our ability to overcome him.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same;
And he must win the battle.

The “right Man” is our Lord Jesus Christ, the “. . . image of the invisible God,” the Creator of “. . . all things in heaven and on earth,” the One in whom “. . . all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17 NRSV). It is through Him that we are “. . . made strong with all the strength that comes from His glorious power” (Colossians 1:11 NRSV). Therefore, we have no need to fear whatever our “ancient foe” sends our way.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.

God’s truth will triumph “through us.” God does not promise to keep us from the onslaughts of sin in this world, but He does promise to go with us through them. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 NRSV). And we are given the means to fight our spiritual battles – specifically God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

That Word above all earthly powers no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God truth abideth still;
His Kingdom is forever!

Burk Parsons writes, “In His first coming [Jesus] established and inaugurated God’s kingdom . . . through the Holy Spirit, He is now expanding and increasing God’s kingdom . . . one day, He will return to judge all people. When He does return, He will bring the full and final consummation of God’s kingdom; established the new heaven and new earth; conquer all His and our enemies; save all who are true Israel and united to Him by faith; dry every tear from our eyes; and fully and finally eradicate sin and death.”[3]

What a glorious day that will be! Even so, Lord Jesus come!

[1] TEXT: Martin Luther (1529); translated by Frederick H. Hedge (1852). TUNE: EIN FESTE BURG

[2] Dr. Burk Parsons, TABLETALK, November 2021, p. 2.

[3] Dr. Burk Parsons, TABLETALK, November 2021, p. 2.

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